SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said he was confident Mile Jedinak would be fit to face Honduras next week after naming the Socceroos captain in his 25-man squad for both legs of the World Cup playoff on Tuesday.
Jedinak has been hampered by a groin injury for months and missed both legs of Australia’s Asian playoff against Syria earlier this month.
The 33-year-old midfielder came on for the last half-hour of Aston Villa’s 0-0 draw in the Championship derby against Birmingham City at the weekend, his first appearance since Sept. 12.
“Mile’s in the squad because he’s almost to the point where he feels good and he’s ready to play,” Postecoglou told reporters.
“He got through 30 minutes at the weekend and speaking to him, he feels really good. He’s in a good space mentally and he’s very keen to be involved.
“From an experience point of view, I think it’s an enormous bonus for us, particularly in that first game. He’s the kind of guy who’s kind of been through this kind of scenario before.
“Having him there will certainly help.”
Barring minor injury concerns over forwards Robbie Kruse (knee) and Mathew Leckie (thigh), Postecoglou was confident all his players would be in good shape for the opening leg in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Nov. 10.
Leckie, like midfielder Mark Milligan, is in any case suspended for the opening leg and both will skip the trip to Central America before joining the squad ahead of the return match in Sydney on Nov. 15.
“Having (Leckie) fit, ready and rested, it’s an enormous weapon to have for that second game, it might even work out as an advantage for us,” Postecoglou said.
Tuesday’s press conference was dominated by a local media report earlier this month that Postecoglou would be stepping down in November regardless of whether Australia beat Honduras and earn a spot at the World Cup finals in Russia next year.
The coach, who had already passed up two opportunities to clarify his situation, again refused to discuss “hypotheticals” and preferred to focus on the playoff matches.
“We’re expecting a tough contest there, particularly with the prize at stake,” he said.
“They’re a hard team to beat, particularly at home, they make things difficult for oppositions.”
Goalkeepers: Mitchell Langerak (Levante, Spain), Mat Ryan (Brighton, England), Danny Vukovic (Genk, Belgium).
Defenders: Josh Risdon (Western Sydney Wanderers), Aziz Behich (Bursaspor, Turkey), Milos Degenek (Yokohama Marinos, Japan), Alex Gersbach (Rosenborg, Norway), Craig Goodwin (Sparta Rotterdam, Netherlands), Matthew Jurman (Suwon, South Korea), Ryan McGowan (Al Sharjah, UAE), Trent Sainsbury (Jiangsu Suning, China), Bailey Wright (Bristol City, England).
Midfielders: Jackson Irvine (Hull City, England), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa, England), James Jeggo (Sturm Graz, Austria), Massimo Luongo (QPR, England), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town, England), Tom Rogic (Celtic, Scotland), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory).
Forwards: Tim Cahill (Melbourne City), Tom Juric (Luzern, Switzerland), Robbie Kruse (Bochum, Germany), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Nikita Rukavytsya (Maccabi Haifa, Israel).
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ian Ransom